5 of surfing’s stupidest inventions

For every surfing breakthrough, like the leash, tri-fin or inflatable life vest, there are a thousand ideas that didn’t quite make the grade. Here are our top-five picks for surfing’s lead balloons.

Front-foot deck grip

Damien Hardman on the way to a world title in 1987. The front foot grip didn't affect his performances, but he still has the abdominal scars. Photo Tony Nolan
Damien Hardman on the way to a world title in 1987. The front foot grip didn’t affect his performances, but he still has the abdominal scars. Photo Tony Nolan

Deck grip, invented by Herbie Fletcher in the late ’70s, has been one of the great accessory technology leaps of our time. It meant there was no need to reapply wax and it provided both consistent grip and tail-pad protection.

Perhaps that’s the reason why, for the latter part of the 1980s, there was no reason to think that this revolutionary piece of surfing genius couldn’t be applied to the whole board. The catch was that, unfortunately, not only did it provide grip for your front foot, but it also was a fantastic (and painful) adhesive to your stomach.

The resulting cheese-grater-like rash meant front-foot deck grip died out in the early ’90s, just after Australians Barton Lynch and Damien Hardman both won world titles on it. They have the trophies, and the abdominal scars, to prove it. In the last few years however technology has finally caught up and now deck grip is available without the abrasive after burn. Maybe it’s time has come.

Spray-on surf wax

surfing's stupidest inventions
Good logo, bad product. Photo: Courtesy of waxmuseum.com
Another seemingly good idea that didn’t quite work out in the real world. Aerosol-based spray-on surf wax first appeared in Australia in the ’60s and was supposed to provide a quick, easy wax solution and be the antidote to all those blocks of wax that melted in your car or became unusable after being covered in dirt and sand.

Unfortunately, while it was clean and easy, it didn’t tend to be very sticky. A quick blast was akin to spraying on a thin layer of slippery film to the board. Despite numerous brands’ attempts, the last being Venom in the 1990s, it is now consigned, thankfully, to the surf-history dustbin.
 
 

Paddling gloves

In theory, webbed paddling gloves could have revolutionized one of the dullest, yet most important, parts of surfing. Through increasing surface area, the gloves were supposed to push more water and add up to 25 percent paddling power.

In reality, they also made you feel like you were paddling through quicksand. A 30-minute session at your local beachbreak gave you jelly arms akin to a five-hour session at Malibu.

Coiled leashes

A SUP coil leash.
A SUP coil leash. Courtesy photo
Taking inspiration from boogie boards, we think, coiled leg-ropes featured a spring-like design — the theory being that they offered the same flexibility and protection, yet at only a foot or so long were much less cumbersome.

That may be true — until the board was caught by a wave and the leash suddenly became 23 feet long before springing back at warp speed (with your board connected) to its usual size. They were both largely impractical and potentially deadly. It is now only on SUPs that you the see the lethal coils.

Wave skis

<iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/KcIqmxj0jXk” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe> Is there any other surfcraft that is so ill-equipped for surf? They tend be very heavy surf equipment that a) you are forced to be tethered to, b) are incapable of going underwater and c) require you to sit on them.

And for every madman who can actually get tubed (see Ben John, above), there are 150 who seem to spend most of their surf inverted with their head underwater.

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